quelle suRprise . . .

World Superbikes france
5th October 2008, magny cours

Words BY LAURA BRADLEY, pics by Simon Bradley

A man on a mission, Haga proved to be strong right from the off...Magny Cours, the circuit of champions...although it, erm, isn't anymore. Although Bayliss clenched the championship so technically it still is the circuit of champions...but it isn't the last round. But let's not get into a kerfuffle.

Qualifying was mostly done on the Friday, with Haga securing the fastest time and Bayliss, Checa and Nieto finishing off the top four. Saturday qualifying was strange, because it was a reasonably dry track but not many people seemed to be taking advantage of it, with many like Xaus waiting until the last minute to go out there and try and improve their time on the driest track possible. Results, however, stayed the same.

Superpole started with Lavilla coming out and, obviously, grabbing pole. However Fabrizio then did a faster lap and held it through the efforts of Sofuoglu. Biaggi, however, managed to blag his way into pole by getting a good time on the final sector of the three and held it through Gimbert’s lap but David Checa did a fast lap and took pole from the Italian. Neukirchner managed to beat the younger Checa’s time and whilst Kagayama, Xaus and Lanzi couldn’t beat his time, Rolfo could. Corser was going well and about to get pole but dropped the bike going into the second to final corner, meaning that he would start from twelfth rather than the pole he deserved. Nieto took pole on his lap and Carlos Checa couldn’t beat his time and neither could Bayliss. Haga, though, took pole with flying colours and this left the front row of the grid as Haga, Nieto, Bayliss and and Checa (C).

The usual melee...with the usual leaders. (Pic - Richard Handley)Race One started with, as usual this season, Bayliss taking the lead from Nieto and Haga who were battling for second. Haga took second and kept it until lap two, where he took the lead from Bayliss going into the Adelaide hairpin and stayed there for the rest of the race. We can tell you now because there really are no surprises from here on in. By lap four a gap was starting to form between Haga and Bayliss, while a little further back Nieto and Fabrizio were scrapping for fourth.  Things pretty much stayed the same until lap thirteen when Fabrizio and Nieto managed to overtake third placed Checa whilst Haga had built up a five second lead.

It was all over for Xaus on lap fifteen when a technical problem meant he had to retire to the pits and Rolfo’s bike soon followed after billowing lots of smoke all over the track, bringing back uncomfortable memories of Donington.

On lap eighteen Nieto finally won the battle with Fabrizio and found himself in third place, and, to show his dismay, Fabrizio soon lost the back of the bike and low-sided as the first crash of the race on lap twenty. Nieto then went on to overtake Bayliss and finished in second place in probably his best ride of the season, which left the top ten as Haga, Nieto, Bayliss, Biaggi, Neukirchner, Corser, Checa, Kagayama, Sofuoglu and Lavilla.

Same stuff, different race...However, as Bayliss managed to finish over twelve points ahead of Corser, he found himself crowned World Superbikes Champion 2008.

Race Two  now and guess how it started...Bayliss took the lead out of the first corner but Haga soon overtook him, leaving the top three as Haga, Bayliss and Nieto. Bayliss, just to top the winning streak off, then thrashed the current lap record here on lap six and started to give Haga some hassle. He took first back going into the downhill chicane of Nurburgring, and Corser soon overtook Nieto and Haga as well in a spectacular effort from his third row start. A the same time, the rain which had been threatening from lunchtime arrived. Would this change everything?

No. Haga was not ready to be defeated and soon overtook Corser and then overtook Bayliss again, while the rain made our photographers a little damp but never amounted to anything more than a brief moment of anxiety for the riders. This left a nice Ducati sandwich, which stayed that way despite Corser’s attempt to overtake Bayliss (which led to him almost running completely off track, he was lucky to stay in third!). David Checa’s success from Saturday didn’t stay with him for this race, as he crashed out on lap twelve.

Team-mates playing nicely together. Or perhaps not. We think there may have been words in the pit box after this...Things just stayed the same as they went round in circles until lap twenty, when Bayliss tried to overtake Haga, but Haga took him straight back. Next corner Bayliss tried again, but Haga took it back again and it wasn’t until lap twenty-two when Bayliss managed to overtake Haga and stay in front. So the end result was Bayliss from Haga and Corser. Checa was a distant third, with a battling Xaus and Biaggi ahead of the entire Suzuki team of Kagayama, Nieto and Neukirchner. Roby Rolfo finished off the top ten, despite some alarming bursts of smoke earlier in the race.

Note: Would just like to mention that Muggas had a technical problem and his bike broke down on the last lap...as far as possible from the pits...just goes to show how sod's law works.

It's the last round at Portimao, Portugal next. We've never been there before but neither has anyone else. Ever. We're certainly interested to see how it has been built and if we even have a media office that isn't just a tent or a wall with the basic plaster over it and no furniture...there have been some rumours, it is fair to say. Anyway, we will, no doubt, see you there!


2008 World Superbikes Champion, and a worthy winner.Race One

1 Nori Haga (Yamaha)
2 Fonsi Nieto (Suzuki)
3 Troy Bayliss (Ducati)
4 Max Biaggi (Ducati)
5 Max Neukirchner (Suzuki)
6 Troy Corser (Yamaha)
7 Carlos Checa (Honda)
8 Yukio Kagayama (Suzuki)
9 Kenan Sofuoglu (Honda)
10 Gregoria Lavilla (Honda)

Race Two

1 Troy Bayliss (Ducati)
2 Nori Haga (Yamaha)
3 Troy Corser (Yamaha)
4 Carlos Checa (Honda)
5 Ruben Xaus (Ducati)
6 Max Biaggi (Ducati)
7 Yukio Kagayama (Suzuki)
8 Fonsi Nieto (Suzuki)
9 Max Neukirchner (Suzuki)
10 Roby Rolfo (Honda)

Championship Standing after thirteen rounds:

1 Troy Bayliss World Superbikes Champion 2008 410
2 Nori Haga 325
3 Troy Corser 316
4Max Neukirchner 298
5 Carlos Checa 284
6 Max Biaggi 235
7 Fonsi Nieto 234
8 Michel Fabrizio 203
9 Ryuichi Kiyonari 193
10 Ruben Xaus 171


Andrew Pitt, World Supersport Champion 2008Editor's note After a difficult season in many ways, we'd like to congratulate Andrew Pitt on lifting the World Supersport title for Ten Kate Honda this weekend. That makes Ten Kate champions every year since 2002. Pitt is remaining with them next season and will be the first rider ever to carry the number one plate in their team, everyone else having gone on to other things after winning.

Editor's second note Congratulations also to Loris Baz, who wrapped up the 600 Superstock championship at the ripe old age of fifteen...

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